VALLEY HOPPING, SAFE AND EASY: Everybody who has ever planned a Saturday of wine or beer tasting around one of California's beverage-blessed regions knows that the first order of business isn't making sure your friends are all off work and can take the time, nor that you have your beer-drinking pants on, nor that you have a little cash for tastings and trinkets you might come across at various brewhouses and vineyards. You want to line up that designated driver, or car service, so you're not driving. Period. End of story. Right? That's number one. And Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co. is making a day out trying the libations of the Santa Ynez Valley a safe adventure: They're introducing the Valley Loop shuttle. Yep, it is a shuttle, and yes indeed, it visits a number of breweries, wineries, and restaurants around the valley. Oh, and did we mention the "free" part? Should that have come at the beginning? It is free.
SO HERE'S WHAT YOU NEED... to know. It runs from Friday to Sunday, with the first pick-up happening at the Figureroa Mountain Buellton tap room at 11 a.m. Later pick-ups at that spot will go down at 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9 p.m. (that's a good long day for a free shuttle). Other pick-up points include Avant Tapas & Wine, Andersen's Pea Soup, both of Buellton; the Figueroa Mountain tasting room in Los Olivos; Roblar Winery in Santa Ynez; and a few other stops. The shuttle visits six cities in all, so call that a wide swath of the valley. Arrive early, stay for the better part of the afternoon, and you'll see several of the ales and chardonnays and pea soups on offer. Pea soup! We want a bowl at the beginning and the end, to better fortify us.
TO GET THE FULL SKED... and all the good stuff before rounding up your friends and plotting your daytrip, read, read, read.